The Royal Maundy is a religious service in the Church of England which is held on the day before Good Friday. The British monarch ceremonially distributes silver coins known as Maundy Money as alms.
The ceremony originated from the Last Supper when Jesus Christ instructed his followers to love one another. From the Middle Ages, the monarch washed the feet of the beggars to imitate Jesus as well. The first recorded monarch to have distributed alms was King John. King Edward I limited to Maundy to the Thursday before Good Friday – it had previously been held at various times throughout the year.
The ceremony was no longer attended by the monarch from 1699, and the washing of feet also disappeared over time. In 1556, Queen Mary I held her Maundy and washed the feet of 41 women – the number 41 represented the Queen’s age – while kneeling. She then kissed the feet “as if she were embracing something precious.” Afterwards, the women were presented with alms of 41 pennies, several items of food, cloth, shoes and stockings. The oldest and poorest woman also received the gown the Queen had been wearing.1 If there was a sickness going around, the monarch often sent an official in their place.
The presence of the monarch remerged again in 1932 at the suggestion of Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein – a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.2 Queen Elizabeth II has only missed four services in her reign, and she always holds the service in a different church. Recipients are now chosen for their service to the community. The Maundy money is now presented in two leather purses.
Due to the current situation, the Royal Maundy for 2020, to be held at St George’s Chapel, was cancelled.